Glass plays Crazy Golf with a culinary twist at food architects Bompas & Parr's installation at Selfridges, London
To say that historical nods to London’s bygone pleasure activities seem to be in vogue in the capital this summer may be an exaggeration. There is, however, a noticeable trend in the summer's entertainments for reincarnating the activities of our bourgeois forefathers. Bompas & Parr’s latest occupation of the Selfridges roof – edible crazy golf – is one such example, a direct throwback to the crazy golf played in the same spot in the 1920s and ‘30s.
Sam Bompas and Harry Parr have worked together since 2007. Occupying the role of “food architects”, they continue the legacy of flamboyant culinary superstars such as Antonin Carême and showman Phineas Taylor Barnum. They have worked with the likes of Lord Foster and Heston Blumenthal and are best known for their chocolate-inspired climbing wall for Alton Towers and their jelly installations. The latter can range from a jelly wedding cake to the more Willy Wonka-esque suspension of a ship in green jelly for “Gesamtkunstwerk at SS Great Britain”, in Bristol. Needless to say, all of their work is defined by a certain idiosyncratic frivolousness which can belie the engineering and scientific skill that goes into the successful manifestation of such projects.
One of the many activities which forms part of the London Festival of Architecture, this summer’s crazy golf is a less ambitious project than some of Bombas and Parr’s previous ones – more stylised than technically awe-inspiring. Upon entering from the lift, you are met with an array of bunting and pop collages of budding crazy golf Victorians, faux grass carpeting, and a wall of china teacups and saucers. There is a nice attention to detail – staff are in costume and the club rules and scorecard handed to you at the reception desk is scented with a quasi-bakewell tart aroma.
Outside, the décor becomes more lurid. Fake grass turns to purple carpeting, and the visual cakeifying of some of London’s most famous landmarks which comprise the nine- hole course is kitsch to the extreme. The course is accompanied by the Daylesford tearoom at one end, serving organic sweet and savory treats – all white chairs, clipped trees and parasols – a garden party parody. The whole has the impression of organised chaos – an Alice and Wonderland aesthetic which is frivolous and whimsical, well suited to the entertainment and considerate of the Selfridges context.
Glass’ experience was enjoyable but not terribly impressive. A novelty thematic is bog-standard in any crazy golf course and, although this one is far better executed then most, the Bombas and Parr label creates abnormally high expectations , which this doesn’t live up to. The most misleading element is that the course is not in fact edible – this is more a feast for the eyes. For those like me who were looking forward to speculating upon the culinary marvels and scientific genius of a sugar or a sponge that could stand the trials and tribulations of weather and poor golfing skills, it is an inevitable disappointment and tarnishes what is misleadingly posted as the main show.
This is the first Bompas & Parr I have seen in the flesh and, without wishing to be unfair, it leaves me pondering over what other “edible” (and I understand now that this shouldn’t be taken in its most literal sense) installations have not been made out of, or even contained, a food element in their genetic makeup, but have merely been lookalike gimmicks.
At £6 a ticket, however, and taking into consideration the café, people genuinely seeming to enjoy themselves, and with the odd stripy deck chair thrown in, you have the makings of a Rooftop Tea and Golf Party at Selfridges. Take away the non-edible course and you have pretty much exactly what it says on the tin: A fun and inexpensive means of whiling away a sunny (if we are to be so fortunate) afternoon.